As we approached Brașov we were joking that if this was a Hammer Horror film no-one would believe it. Picture the scene. Two friends decide to drive across Eastern Europe in an old van and, as chance would have it, find themselves staying in the heart of Transylvania on the night of Hallowe’en. Patches of mist plague their day and, as night falls, mist builds to fog. Sudden banks of it render the feeble headlights of their vehicle near useless. Shadowy figures emerge from the gloom. Animals recoil from them as they pass. At times the road’s edges can be difficult to see – even as they climb twisting mountain roads. They are forced to park some way from their hotel. The only way to complete their journey is on foot, through ancient narrow, deserted, cobbled streets. Somewhere up ahead a scream can be heard …
The really weird thing is that it all happened.
We started the day in Germany. Mists swirled across fields and this continued though Austria and into Hungary.
The transition into Hungary was remarkable. Although still part of the Schengen area (a region of entirely borderless travel within the EU) the immediate and thankfully brief transition to awful roads was remarkable.
The process of buying a vignette (a sticker to show that you have paid a road tax entitling you to drive on the best roads) in Austria had been official and automated. The same thing in Hungary was handled by multiple sellers seemingly competing suggesting that there was a better deal to be had if only you asked enough people. Apart from fuel and the vignette we barely stopped in Hungary. Although it was lunchtime we powered through, ravenous …
Romania lies outside the Schengen area (for now at least) and that meant massive queues for lorries (pleasingly very little for us) and actual border checks. We feared the worst when being told to park after our passports and vehicle registration document were retained by passport control but after 5 minutes a cheery customs officer emerged to return them to us and wave us on our way.
The drive through Romania started very well – on excellent, smooth highways (yes, we had to purchase a third vignette of the day!). Clearly there is huge infrastructure spending in Romania that is still very much a work in progress. The road that we took was in great condition however the service stations whilst wonderful to behold seemingly either lacked access roads or had access roads but were a long way from complete!
Our route concluded with some 130 km in the dark, on local roads through villages with intermittent fog banks, poor street lighting, (our own) dim headlights and occasional quite mad driving from locals. We made it to Brașov feeling somewhat tense.
Our hotel is right in the town centre (an absolute steal at £65 for an amazing duplex triple room!) but with no parking so we had to park nearby and walk the rest. A lady we passed who was checking her phone on the walk had her alert signal set to a scream! Really quite something in the heart of Transylvania on tonight of all nights!
A fantastic meal (accompanied by a bottle of excellent Transylvanian red) at the hotel’s associated restaurant presaged a short walk around the hugely picturesque town square (complete with Lutheran “Black Church”) before turning in. Ukraine tomorrow?
It is worth noting that every single one of the locals we have met has been utterly charming. Apparently an airport is being built nearby and should open in June 2023. The area will certainly be worth a return visit …